BigBox is a large, hackable and open source 3D printer


This 3D printer from E3D and LittleBox boasts an impressive build volume, modular design and hotend.


It’s safe to assume that Makers who’ve dabbled with RepRap and other low-cost, open source 3D printers are most likely familiar with UK-based startup E3D. Combining their experience in crafting high-quality parts, the team has collaborated with fellow British company LittleBox, the designers of the MicroSlice desktop laser cutter, to introduce what they call the BigBox 3D Printer

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Now live on Kickstarter, the BigBox is described as a no-compromise 3D printer that converges high-print resolution, a large build volume and an extrusion system that can spew out nearly every material on the market, all wrapped up in a clutter-free package with a powerful, easy-to-use toolchain. The machines will come in an assortment of DIY kits — Lite, Pro and Dual — or can ship fully-assembled for those seeking a more out-of-the-box experience. Nevertheless, all of the models boast a substantial print volume of about 12″ x 8″ x 11”, auto-leveling as a standard, and are capable of a layer thicknesses as fine as 50 microns.

Each of the BigBox units are equipped with a heated bed, a max print speed of 100mm/second and a E3D-v6 hotend that can reach temperatures up to 572°F (300°C), except for the barebones Lite version which lacks the heated bed, has half the max print speed and employs a “mostly metal” hotend. And as its name would imply, the Dual features two printheads to allow users to print in various colors or two totally different materials simultaneously.

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When taking a look at the printer, one of, if not, the most noticeable attribute is its enormous build volume with a 17-liter space that provides everyone the freedom to create big objects without sacrificing quality. What’s more, the build volume has been configured to not just be large in one direction, like many other plus-sized printers, but balanced in all axes with a huge usable surface.

“Objects built in the plane of the bed are stronger than tall objects built away from the bed so this is a real practical advantage,”  E3D’s Sanjay Mortimer and Josh Rowley explain. “Having a larger bed also means that you can pack more items into a single print for high-volume printing. So BigBox has not just a large build space, but a well-proportioned, more useful build space.”

The motion system of the BigBox 3D printers have been designed by LittleBox to offer the right combination of both mechanical reduction and higher resolution motors to achieve twice the standard positional resolution, low drag motion and consistency across every axis. Any vibration and unnecessary wobbling is eliminated thanks to bearings on every corner, which in turn, offers users extreme precision and a smooth experience.

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The company’s flagship E3D-v6 extruder has the ability to spit out just about every filament available on the market, ranging from flexible, rubber-like resin to metal and carbon-filled materials. And of course, Makers can still choose to use PLA and ABS.  On top of that, the hotends have interchangeable nozzles depending on if someone is looking for higher resolution or increased print times.

In terms of its electronics, the user-friendly machines include a couple of Atmel MCUs: an ATmega2560 at its core, an ATmega16U2 for managing communications, as well as an ATtiny to be added for “something else that as yet to be announced.” Each device is packed with an LCD display and an integrated SD card reader for untethered printing. Aside from the classic USB connectivity options, BigBox can also interact over the web with OctoPrint and Raspberry Pi.

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Sound like a 3D printer you’d like for your Makerspace? Head over to BigBox’s Kickstarter page, where E3D and LittleBox have already well surpassed their initial goal of $46,870. The first batch of units is expected to ship in December 2015 — just in time for the holidays!

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